Oremus in Sátoraljaújhely is one of the most iconic vineyards in Hungary. Its fame is thanks to a myth, according to which Laczkó Máté Szepsy (1576-1633), a Calvinist preacher from Erdőbernye, made the first ‘aszú’ wine in the Tokaj wine region for Zsuzsanna Lorántffy (1600-1660), the wife of György Rákóczy I, Prince of Transylvania (1593-1648) in 1651.
Recently, extensive research has disproved all such rumours. Firstly, in 1651 Laczkó Máté Szepsy was already dead. Secondly, it is an undeniable fact that people around the wine region of Tokaj-Hegyalja had been making aszú wine ever since the mid-16th century, when local winemakers had come up with a pioneering method to produce aszú. Thirdly, the aszú wine was first mentioned in 1571 in a document containing information about an inheritance lawsuit of the Garai family. According to that document, Máté Garai, who had previously passed away, had bequeathed a tremendous amount of aszú wine (harvested from the vineyards Hétszőlő and Nagyszőlő) to his heirs.
Despite all this, Oremus has had a colourful past. It was an integral part of the vineyards of Várhegy (promontorium), whose roots reach back as far as the time of Béla IV. (1236-1270). For many years, our only information about this land was that it was first mentioned in 1567 as the vineyard of Sárospatak. At that time, Gábor Perényi (1532-1567) passed away and so the Perényi family’s baron branch died out, which meant that all their lands, including the estate of Sárospatak, fell under the ownership of the king. However, written sources also mentioned that Oremus was formerly the vineyard of Sátorlajaújhely, sanctified in memory of Saint Giles and the Virgin Mary. Recently, a document has emerged from a mediaeval source dated 16th June 1462, thus becoming the earliest official document mentioning the vineyards of Oremus. This document reports on a property debate in connection with the woodlands of the Pauline Fathers’ monastery of Sátoraljaújhely. The monastery and a local vineyard owner László Kebles were at loggerheads over the land. Furthermore, Kebles also took Sárkányárka, a piece of land lying on the border and started cultivating it as if it were his property. In the end, László Kebles and his wife were allowed to keep the lands; however, it was also part of the agreement that after their death, the legal ownership of the lands would be permanently transferred to the monastery.
In 1258, the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit settled there and founded a monastery. It was the only Hungarian order (established by Özséb Boldog in 1246) which always paid meticulous attention to the cultivation of holy grapes as well as to winemaking. This is also confirmed by the fact that the powerful Árpád and Anjou dynasties exempted the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit from paying taxes. Moreover, Pope John XXII (1316-1334) decided that the Pauline Fathers would not have to pay tithes (one tenth) on the grapes they harvested. These orders helped the Pauline Fathers a great deal as regards winemaking. Therefore, by the mid-15th century, the Pauline Fathers had become the most significant owners in the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region. The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit (or Pauline Fathers) acquired these lands not by purchasing them, but by receiving many of the vineyards as generous donations (donatio). This came about because many local residents (aristocrats, churchmen and even simple village priests) believed that naming the Pauline Fathers as their rightful heir would bring them salvation. Presumably, this was also how the order acquired the vineyard of Oremus.
Until the Battle of Mohács (1626), nothing much changed in terms of the ownership of the lands. After the catastrophic defeat, during the ensuing political crisis, Péter Perényi, crown guard (1502-1548), was on the side of Szapolyai, but later on, he switched his allegiance to the Habsburg side. As a token of gratitude, (Habsburg) Ferdinand I (1526-1564) gave him the estate of Sárospatak. Perényi himself was a wholehearted supporter of Reformation in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region, and so, in 1527, he founded the predecessor of the Reformed boarding school of Sárospatak, the Schola Patika. Thus, in the name of Reformation, he confiscated all religious lands and forced out all those orders inhabiting the lands. The same thing happened with the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit whose massive vineyards (including Oremus) were confiscated by Péter Perényi, who subsequently gave all these lands to the estate of Sárospatak. It was not until 1642 that the Pauline Fathers were allowed to resettle in Sátoraljaújhely, but even then, they were not allowed to own vineyards.
In 1567, the Perényi family’s male line came to an end and the estate’s ownership was transferred to royal court. In 1573, the same lands were given to the aristocratic Dobó family, although in 1602, this family also died out. After that, the Zeleméry family became the new owner of the lands. It was not long before this family’s male line also came to an end (1608) and the female line of the Lorántffy family inherited the lands.
In 1616, Zsuzsanna Lorántffy and György Rákóczi I married and Oremus was given to the Rákóczi family as a dowry. The newlyweds established the estate of Borsi, which included Oremus along with a number of other vineyards. Essentially, this was how Oremus came into the hands of the Rákóczi family.
In 1660, following the death of György Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania (1620-1660), his widow, Zsófia Báthory (1629-1680) settled in Sárospatak and shortly thereafter, together with her son, Prince Ferenc Rákóczi I (1645-1676), converted to the Roman Catholic faith, bringing about the Counter-Reformation in Tokaj-Hegyalja. The widow and mother superior supported both the Pauline Fathers and the Jesuits. Therefore, she gave half the vineyard of Oremus to the Pauline Fathers, which then remained in their hands even after the dissolution of the order in 1786. Later on, for a period of 3 years, it became the property of the Treasury and in 1789, was acquired by the Piarists, newly settled in Sátoraljaújhely. The Piarist order, otherwise known as the Order of Poor Clerics, who were mainly concerned with education, owned a substantial share of the Oremus vineyards right up until 1948.
According to certain listings from the mid-17th century, Oremus was widely considered as one of the vineyards producing the best sweet wines. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a number of aristocratic families had properties in the region. The baronial Sztáray family counted among the owners as well as the affluent Baksa, Hartay and Rád(y) families. However, these families were deprived of their lands due to their participation in the Wesselényi conspiracy. To the best of our knowledge, it was only the Sztáray family who managed to reclaim their lands, although it happened only after decades of litigation. Following Rákóczi's War of Independence in 1712, the estate of Borsi and the vineyards belonging to it (together with Oremus) were confiscated by the Treasury. Years later, the princely Trautson family received these lands and owned them until the very end of the 18th century, when they were reclaimed by the Treasury.
Finally, it is essential to discuss the true meaning of Oremus, which, without doubt, is worthy of note. In the beginning of the 20th century, a misconception started to spread, which claimed that the name of the vineyard could be associated with the Latin verbs ‘pray, beg’, thus symbolising the fact that, in the past, it had been owned by the Church. Although it is certainly true that the land had been owned by religious orders (Jesuits, Pauline Fathers), its name’s origin has nothing to do with these verbs. In reality, Oremus is the mediaeval and early modern form of the name (both the first and surname) Jeremos. It evolved from the Classical Greek ‘Hyeronimos’ and the Latin ‘Hyeronimus’, but over the years, it dropped the letter ‘h’ from the beginning. At that time, it was quite common for people to pronounce Oremus not in the Latin way ‘Orémusz’, but rather phonetically like ‘Orémus’. To add to the confusion, at that time, there was an aristocratic family living in the northern part of Hungary who was known by the same name. Their ancestors came from Italy in the first few decades of the 14th century together with Anjou (Robert) Charles I (1301-1342) and then settled somewhere around Sátoraljaújhely. It is also known that the Oremus family in question lived in Sátoraljaújhely during the first half of the 15th century and, surprisingly or not, they were also vineyard owners. Most probably, it was a member of the family who, in the hope of salvation, gave the vineyards to the Pauline Fathers. And actually, this is how the vineyard known today as Oremus was born.